The Toxic Avenger, 1984.
Directed by Lloyd Kaufman and Michael Herz.
Starring Mitch Cohen, Mark Torgl, Andree Maranda, Jennifer Prichard, Cindy Manion, Robert Prichard and Pat Ryan Jr.
A mild-mannered janitor is transformed into a mutated ‘Monster Hero’ and sets out to clean up the town of Tromaville, New Jersey.
When looking back in the annals of Troma Entertainment, there is one film that you simply cannot ignore. A film that turned a company around and gave them a mascot that would last them to this day – The Toxic Avenger.
Despite The Toxic Avenger being the turning point for Troma where they decided to solely focus on making horror movies, there is a lot to be admired in the film in terms of comedy. Although very cheesy and hack, The Toxic Avenger is a very funny movie that can easily make you laugh out loud 6 or 7 times. From its incredibly silly premise to its caricature heroes and villains, this is a film that slides more into the comedy side of the scale.
Alright, let’s get the main points out of the way shall we? It seems preposterous for complaining about the quality of The Toxic Avenger in terms of filmmaking given Troma’s history and stupidly low budgets, but there is a lot wrong with the movie. The editing is awful, the acting is horrendous, the pacing is off and the story is pretty badly told. But when watching the movie, you get the impression that all of these flaws are intentional. When you have a plot line this ridiculous, characters that are so over the top and creatively exaggerated death scenes, it’s very easy to forgive the film for its amateurish mishaps.
While all of the above remains true, The Toxic Avenger deserves credit for making a lot out of nothing. Despite the film’s super low budget, they manage to have heads being crushed, people on fire, guts being ripped out, big stunts, car crashes and explosions – all of which are done with beautiful on-set effects and not a shot of CGI in sight. The prosthetics on The Toxic Avenger himself do leave a bit to be desired, but when everything around him is so amazingly crafted it seems so insignificant. There is a lot to be said for these low budget horror movies of the 1980s and their ability to take some spaghetti and grey paint and make it looks like a dog has had been gutted by a shotgun.
The Toxic Avenger is a fun film, there is no doubt about it. But sadly its poor filmmaking has left it looking somewhat dated to those who aren’t so easy to buy into low budget horrors. I mentioned in my Troma history piece that for the last few years Lloyd Kaufman has been working towards a Toxic Avenger remake (which is sadly rumoured to be PG-13) but the question as always stands – is there any need?
I do think that film would benefit somewhat from a 21st century update but feel it could take away some of that magic that makes The Toxic Avenger such a joy to watch. Because the film is so campy, silly and over the top, it’s actually kind of brilliant. With shiny effects, good prosthetics and better editing, the film could feel forced and phony which is not what The Toxic Avenger needs. It would be like giving the Adam West Batman TV show a 21st century makeover but keeping the themes and tone the same. It was a show of its era and probably belongs there – just as The Toxic Avenger does.
I love The Toxic Avenger and even have some love for its lesser sequels. If you’re a fan of schlocky horror, gory effects, juvenile humour and bat-poop-crazy plot you will also love this movie. It’s a whole lot of fun and there is much to be enjoyed so long as you can look past its simple flaws. I hope that Arrow Films give the film and Toxie the recognition it deserves just as they have done with tomorrow’s releases. After all, we wouldn’t have the Troma we know and love without it.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★ ★
Luke Owen is a freelance copywriter working for Europe’s biggest golf holiday provider as their web content executive.